Most jobs are not set up to satisfy us for a lifetime. A job has a life cycle characterized by various stages. This movement from Idealize to Devalue is different for everyone. Some employees even skip stages. Moving through each of these periods can take just a few weeks or many years. If you can recognize where you are at each stage you can improve your experience or prepare for a successful exit.
Stage 1: Idealize
Once you have accepted a position, you are likely to feel the highest positive regard for the job. You are motivated and excited about this new position and the potential it has. This period is characterized by high motivation and excitement. You perceive your supervisor as someone you can work for and is an individual that will be committed to your success. Your co-workers seem like nice people that will help you transition smoothly into the new job. The job duties seem potentially challenging and rewarding. You are ready to begin this new chapter of your career.
Stage 2: Honeymoon
You start your new job and enter into the orientation or probationary phase. Since there is so much to know, this is the steepest part of the learning curve. Most employers expect it will take you some time to settle in before you can fully contribute. It can be a period where you have permission to make mistakes and be forgiven. However, it can also be a time where mistakes can add up to your termination. At this stage, you are learning new rules, the culture, your supervisor’s leadership style, processes, procedures, rules, products and people. You may feel either overwhelmed or underwhelmed. You many even have some doubts about your ability to do this new job. You may not know exactly what you are doing or if you are doing it well. You’re wondering who you can trust as well as who will be your allies and mentors. You don’t want to appear foolish or a know-it-all, so balance a willingness to learn with your competence. Here you begin to understand the subtleties of office politics and etiquette. Be tactful. Find ways to fit in and gain acceptance. Start to lay the foundation for collaboration with team members. Search for focus and direction. Begin to develop a daily work routine. Time with your supervisor and key co-workers can help solidify your place and role. All parties are adjusting at this point, so give yourself some time to get use to your new job.
Stage 3: Ideal/Real Reconciliation
After some time, you may think this was not the best choice. Reality sets in and a gap forms between the ideal and the real. After you settle in, the reality becomes clearer. The job and work environment turn out to be different than what you envisioned. You are still learning, however, the job duties may be more routine, boring, and less exciting that what you initially expected. Your co-workers and supervisor are not exactly what you thought they would be like. You may feel disappointed or frustrated. This is a transitional phase. This is a good time to stop, re-evaluate expectations, reflect on your progress, chart any new and more realistic goals and reaffirm the positive things seen so far.
Stage 4: Peak Performance
This phase is characterized by your highest degree of mastery of the job and highest productivity. Your energy is focused on accomplishing tasks and goals. Your self-confidence and competence are excellent. You have raised your visibility. You are fully integrated into the work group and organization; you are able to better negotiate changes effectively. You have taken on increased responsibilities and roles. You have established yourself by generating positive results. This period may be characterized by financial rewards or public acknowledgement of your performance.
Stage 5: Plateau
You’ve hit an area of little variation. Your professional development in this job has leveled off or declined. You notice an increase in routine and decrease in challenge and creativity. You are not learning very much and your enthusiasm has waned. In other words, you’re coasting. You come in and do your job and then leave. You have lost a sense of urgency or caring. You are maintaining your work performance, but there is not a lot beyond that. What you may need to do is to reinvent your job or reposition yourself. You can continue to keep yourself marketable by join professional associations, training others, taking on new projects, upgrading old knowledge, learning new skills, networking, attending seminars or classes. This may be the time to stop and re-evaluate your short-term and long-term goals.
Stage 6: Devalue
At this stage you are feeling mostly negative about your job. Your commitment to the job and employer wanes. You tend to focus on the weaknesses of the job, your boss and your co-workers. Your productivity and attitude decline. You are either overworked or underworked. You may receive a poor performance evaluation. Requests for new responsibilities, training, supervision, promotion and salary increases are either stalled or rejected. You are left out of key meetings. There are more office politics and conflict than you can tolerate. Minor issues quickly trigger negative emotions. You are in real danger of “Rage Quit.” Frequently, you think about moving on and sometimes feel, “Is this all there is?” You are disappointed to the point that you mentally “Check Out.” Without question, it’s time to get professional help to objectively assess the situation and come up with a strategic action plan.